SAN FRANCISCO – Stolen electricity accounts for more than $100 million in annual losses at Pacific Gas & Electric Co., an amount experts say is likely to increase with the ongoing power crisis.
Utility officials will not say how the power theft affects its 13 million customers or whether the illegal practice has increased.
“We have found that the more stories that are done on this issue, the more common it becomes and that puts our staff in danger,” said PG&E spokeswoman Staci Homrig.
However, former PG&E revenue protection agent Howard Dean estimated annual losses range from $100 million to $400 million.
Nationally, thieves tap into electric lines and steal up to $4 billion a year, according to the International Utilities Revenue Protection Association.
Average monthly power bills are expected to increase 37 percent to coincide with a rate increase approved last month by state regulators, which add more power thieves.
“As the utility price increases, the financial incentive for people to tamper with or try to reduce their electric bill through improper methods increase,” said Wayne Wohler, a board member of the Western States Utility Theft Association.
Wohler said have been electrocuted while tampering while trying to steal electricity. He said some find ways to slow down logging devices on their meters or bypass the meter altogether.